YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Xs and O's / Game 1 Report / STANLEY CUP FINALS * NEW

After Rest Stop, Ducks Stall

May 28, 2003|KELLY HRUDEY

I was pretty impressed with the way the Ducks started off after that 10-day layoff. In that first period, I was thinking, they were supposed to be rusty, but they played OK. But then, in the second period, they let their guard down. They slid. They forgot how to read situations. Now it may seem silly to some people that would happen to a team after a whole season, but 10 days off is a long time when an organization is thrown into a pressure situation like the Stanley Cup finals.

Still, I'd rather be rested, even if it means being rusty for one game. Really, it was one bad period based on the inactivity. You just can't reproduce the intensity of a game in practice.

And New Jersey was there to take advantage, especially on the second goal, scored by Grant Marshall. The focus was on Duck goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and the fact he seemed unaware he had failed to control the puck after blocking the previous shot. That was not the key factor. The key, and again this may go back to the rustiness, was all-around bad communication. The players got complacent when Giguere blocked the shot, thinking everything was over. That's a case of players failing to remember their roles when the puck is in the defensive zone. Once players start chasing the puck and fail to play their positions, the team is doomed. A team will never have any success that way. On the first goal, scored by New Jersey's Jeff Friesen, the Ducks basically fell into little bit of a lull and weren't reading the play very well. Friesen was in perfect position for a one-timer, but instead, he waited, hesitated and threw Giguere off, froze him. That allowed Friesen room on the short side.

Friesen said he had learned a few things about Giguere when he was a teammate of his on the Ducks. There's something to that. When you face a guy all the time in practice, you pick things up. When Yanic Perreault and I were both members of the Kings, he figured out that my weakness was my glove hand. Then I got to the Sharks and my first game was against the Kings. Perreault scored two goals on me, both over my glove hand. That really annoyed me.

While Giguere had plenty of work, the Devils' Martin Brodeur faced only 16 shots. That might seem like an easy night for a goalie, but it's not. A goalie can have a tough time staying sharp when he doesn't face a lot of shots, especially a lot of quality shots. But Brodeur is solid. He isn't concerned with the shots, just the results.

The Devils looked incredibly strong on defense. And that's not something that can boiled down to just Brodeur. Defensively, everybody on that team plays well.

The Ducks' Paul Kariya had only one shot on goal and it would be easy to say all the credit for that should go to the Devils' defense, but I wouldn't agree with that. Kariya has to generate scoring opportunities no matter what the Devils do. When you have that sort of skill level, it's up to you to get it done. I've noticed Kariya has learned to take his defensive responsibilities very seriously. That's commendable. That's honorable. And I know he's heard players such as Joe Sakic praised for becoming solid defensive players. But Kariya still has to be an offensive player as well. Being an all-around player is great, but you can't give up your offense.

The Ducks have to figure that, in Game 2, having put the long layoff behind them, they are going to be better. But they have to recognize that the Devils are also going to be better. For one thing, they should have more confidence. They proved something in Game 1. They proved they can score on Giguere. Everybody was asking, is this guy beatable? Now they know he is.


Kelly Hrudey is second to Rogie Vachon in games and wins on the Kings' all-time goaltending list, but Hrudey stands alone in one category. He is the only goalie to lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals. That was 10 years ago when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games. Now a television hockey analyst in Canada, Hrudey lives in Calgary. He is serving as The Times' guest columnist for this year's Stanley Cup finals.

Los Angeles Times Articles